The Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Jiři Dienstbier is pushing for an amendment to the law which would give non-EU foreigners with long-term residence in the Czech Republic the right to vote, first on the local level and later also in general elections. The minister argues that once the authorities have granted a person long-term residence they should also grant them the right to co-decide about who runs the city or country that has become their second home. The laws that govern the process of granting non-EU foreigners permanent residence or citizenship in the Czech Republic are, according to the human rights’ minister, one of the toughest in the EU. People can only file for permanent residence after having resided in the country for 5 years (10 years for citizenship applications) and it is entirely up to the Czech authorities whether their request will be granted. Minister Dienstbier says that their newly acquired status should go hand-in hand with the right to vote.
“The foreigners who are given permanent residence are people whom the state wants here on a long-term basis, and I think that if we take someone into our midst so to speak, then we should also give them the right to vote. It will not only help them integrate but it is simply something they should have a say in – they should have the right to vote in local elections, and possibly regional elections, since it appears that general elections would be harder to push though at this point.”
The minister has also previously raised the question of EU foreigner rights, pointing to the fact that Czech legislation prevents them from taking part in public and political life. While EU nationals have the right to vote, they can only vote in local and European elections and due to the Czech election law they cannot enter political parties or run in the elections.